re you tired of staring at the back of your child’s handheld device? These days, it’s easy for kids to get so wrapped up in YouTube videos and Instagram posts that getting them up and outside, even with their phone (let alone without it), is a feat easier said than done.
But with its crisp air and changing colors, autumn in Michigan truly is a sight to behold, which makes it the perfect season to turn over a new leaf and get the kids outdoors.
Where’s a parent to start? Luckily, the folks at the Michigan Wildlife Council know all the secrets of connecting with the state’s beautiful outdoors. Here, they offer their top four unique-to-Michigan outdoor adventures for families.
1. Parks galore
Between Michigan’s Metroparks and state parks, there are hundreds of parks all across the state for families to enjoy – with many of them located just a frog’s hop from metro Detroit, including the newly renovated Belle Isle Park.
Each park offers totally unique landscapes and opportunities for outdoor fun, ranging from camping to aerial obstacle courses, from museums to special events.
With so many options to choose from, it would be tough to not find a park that fits your family’s interests.
Best of all, most of the parks only require a small parking fee, of $10 (daily) for the Metroparks and $11 (yearly) for the state parks, to enjoy the wonders within.
2. Take a hike (or a ride)
Speaking of parks, the majority of them also offer hiking and biking paths for families to enjoy.
That’s right: You can take a leisurely bike ride, or walk, through nature or take a crack at the longest designated state trail in the nation, the Iron Belle Trail.
“You can’t talk about Michigan trails without talking about the Iron Belle,” says Paul Yauk, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources state trail coordinator. “This is already an amazing trail and it’s getting better every day thanks to the cooperation of federal, state and local agencies.”
The 1,273 mile-long hiking route is only 69-percent complete, but allows hikers to walk spaces between Belle Isle Park in Detroit and Ironwood in the U.P., through forest, along rivers and into towns. It also incorporates a 791-mile bike route that will challenge even the most daring riders.
But if that sounds like too much, you can also find shorter trails, like the 8.9-mile Paint Creek Trail in Oakland County, 55 miles of trails at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks and, of course, the 3 1/2-mile Detroit RiverWalk in downtown Detroit.
3. Go fishing
Michigan is home to 11,000 inland lakes and 242 streams. This means you’re likely never far from a body of water, giving you great opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding and plenty of fishing.
According to the Michigan DNR, there are more than 150 species of fish that currently live in Michigan’s waterways available for catch and release. In addition to being a day of fun, fishing can actually help fund work to preserve Michigan’s aquatic environments and public land.
“Not only are fishing and hunting license fees used to stock lakes and pay for species conservation, they’re also used to preserve Michigan’s beautiful forests, public lands and river quality,” says Hank Stancato of the Michigan Wildlife Council.
And if fishing isn’t really your thing, the waterways also provide a great backdrop for relaxation sans electronics.
4. Volunteer work
Michigan’s wildlife isn’t just fun and games. It takes hard work to keep the parks and environment in tip-top shape. For families, this means a variety of volunteer opportunities, like The Greening of Detroit program and the DNR Stewardship Workdays.
These programs are designed to help plant trees and upkeep green spaces in the city and also clear invasive species and keep the local parks clean.
The Michigan Wildlife Council is entrusted with educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation and its role in preserving Michigan’s great outdoor heritage for future generations. The council is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about how wildlife and Michigan’s outdoors are managed and funded so that we can continue to enjoy them as we do today. Find out more at hereformioutdoors.org.